One Ash Homestead


Wild Harvesting Plantain

Lee AnnThose weeds that grow along the side of the road are not all nuisance plants! If you know what to look for there is great opportunity to wild harvest one of the most all-around useful medicinal herbs – Plantain.

There are several types of plantain, the most common being either wide leaf (Plantago major) or narrow leaf (Plantago lanceolata). There is no medicinal difference and narrow leaf plantain is the type that we find here in South Carolina. It has been used for centuries as a healing agent for wounds and inflammatory concerns. Common uses include the placement of crushed leaves on the skin to calm insect bites, nettle stings and wounds. It can also slow the bleeding of minor cuts and scrapes. Plantain can be used in its fresh, natural state, or it can be infused into carrier oils to create longer-lasting salves and lotions. The use of plantain in these salves and lotions is the more typical form found today at farmers' markets and from home herbalists.

plantain wild harvest

Plantain can be found in many parts of the world from North America to New Zealand, and its roots in medicine appear to have been carried throughout the world by colonists. There is a story in history of an Indian receiving an reward from the Assembly of South Carolina for discovering that plantain was a remedy for the rattlesnake bite. Many recipes are widely available from the present and past centuries for both internal and external uses of plantain. Most herbalists and home remedy specialists use plantain as a base herb, often used in combination with other herbs, for medicinal salves.

Plantain can be purchased dried and cut or it can be harvested fresh. To me there is nothing quite as rewarding as being able to wild harvest the herb. This allows me to have fresh plantain in its purist form and without any kind of fertilizer or pesticides. Around here I can harvest plantain pretty much all summer. We are blessed to have it growing along the road frontage of our homestead. I just have to convince One Ash hubby to hold off on mowing until it gets tall enough to gather! (Fortunately plantain grows faster than the grass!) This past winter I found a few bunches of plantain growing in what was to become a new pig pen. Not wanting to waste that treasure, the only thing to do was to dig it up and plant it in a pot, which is beautiful on the porch this spring!

plantain pot

Once I have gathered my fresh plantain, I can either use it right away to infuse oils for salve, or I can dry it for future use. I never worry about having too much since it can be stored in plastic bags in the freezer and kept for a year or more. To dry it, I have an old screen door that I set up on the porch. In dry, breezy weather it usually takes a few days for the leaves to be dry enough to freeze or place in a jar. Of course, if I am making salve right away, I use the leaves fresh and green.

plantain drying

Whatever you use plantain for, it is fun to learn and teach about wild harvesting this plentiful herb. For me, the best thing of all has been when we are driving down a country road and One Ash hubby slams on the brakes and says, "Wow! Look at all that plantain!" Have fun educating your family to the medicinal powers of Plantago lanceolata!

Want to buy dried plantain? Various websites sell the herb, and check your local farmers' market next weekend.

Spice Pantry Essentials

Lee AnnIt's always fun to look at all the spices in that grocery store aisle. Buy how many of them do you really need for everyday cooking? Here's my list of what I always keep on hand.

Some recipes call for a long list of exotic spices while others call for just some basics. Unless you are preparing a gourmet meal for a contest, you should be able to get by with some standard spices. Many times you can add "a little more of this" to compensate for "not having that." I'm not always able to pick up a spice for just one recipe, nor do I want to clutter my spice pantry with a single use item, so I have learned to cook everything with combinations of these few spices. Whether you are just setting up your first kitchen, or are an experienced kitchen whiz, this list will help you simplify and remove some clutter from your spice pantry.

spice pantry 

Spice Pantry Essentials

Salt
Sea salt
Black pepper
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Celery seed
Cumin
Basil
Oregano
Ground ginger
Ground nutmeg
Ground cinnamon
Seasoned salt
Dried cilantro
Cayenne pepper
Paprika
Parsley flakes
Bay leaves
Dried dill weed
Goya All-Purpose Seasoning

Easy French Bread

Lee AnnThis is one of our favorite breads – easy to make, and so delicious with a salad or soup. Try it and enjoy!

French Bread from One Ash Farm Recipes

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (buy yeast in bulk here)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups flour
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
Cornmeal (to sprinkle on pan) (buy cornmeal in bulk here)

1. Whisk together water, yeast and sugar until dissolved. Add salt and flour; mix thoroughly. (Dough should not be too sticky, add some more flour if needed.)

2. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Place in bowl, cover with kitchen towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

4. Return dough to floured surface, and divide into two parts. Roll each part into rectangle about the size of a piece of paper (8 1/2 by 11 inches). Roll out each piece of dough, sealing seam and pinching/poking in ends.

5. Lightly grease baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. Place both rolled up loaves on baking sheet and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 375 F. Brush each loaf with egg wash and slash tops in 4 places with serrated knife.

7. Bake for 20 minutes and cool prior to slicing.

Enjoy!

French bread baguette | Fotolia/irrez

Photo: Fotolia/irrez

Homemade Lye Soap

Lee AnnIf you have never made your own soap, you may think it's a really complicated process. I know that's what I thought. I was afraid of the lye, didn't understand how easy it was to be creative, and felt like I was learning chemistry. Then a friend showed me how she makes it, and after some alterations to make the recipe my own, I came up with this simple soap. We now make a lot of different kinds of soaps here on the farm, but this always has been our go-to recipe. We have used it around here for years, and it's always fun trying new scents and additives. The trick to soap making? Just get started and don't be afraid!

simple soap 

Simple Soap from One Ash Farm Recipes

2 cups liquid ~ this can be things like chamomile tea, pureed cucumbers mixed with some water or green tea, or goat milk
6 ounces food grade lye ~ weigh this out on your digital scale
8 ounces olive oil
16 ounces coconut oil
1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) shortening (yes, the kind you cook with)
Essential oils or soap fragrance oil
Any other additives (cornmeal, dried herbs, oatmeal, etc.)

– Combine the liquid and the lye and stir until mixed. Make sure you are pouring the lye into the liquid, not the other way around! The mixture will begin to get hot from the chemical reaction with the lye. Be sure to wear your apron and protective goggles. And don't splash!

– Slowly add the oils to the liquid/lye mixture, and, using your stick blender, mix thoroughly until saponification occurs. (This is when the mixture begins to thicken and you can see a trace, or trail, through the soap.) Saponification is the chemical process that creates a hard soap and neutralizes the caustic effects of the lye.

– Quickly add your essential oils (generally 2 to 3 ounces for this amount of soap) or soap fragrance, and any additives. Make sure they are well-blended using your stick blender. Do not over mix, and don't let the soap harden.

– Pour the completed mixture into your pre-greased soap mold.

– Now you can design the top of your soap bars. Smooth the mixture, or give it some peaks like when you ice a cake. You can also lightly press in some dried herbs like lavender or rosemary.

– Once the mixture is firm enough (generally 24 to 48 hours), turn your mold upside down onto a parchment or wax paper covered surface. If needed, use a knife or other tool to cut the soap into the size.

– Leave the soap to harden for about 2 weeks, rotating occasionally so it dries all around.

– After it has dried, you will have your own beautiful bars of soap to give or enjoy!

Have fun making your own soap!

Turn to Part 1 for "The Benefits of Soap Making."

Turn to Part 2 for "The Equipment Needed for Soap Making."

The Equipment Needed For Soap Making

Lee AnnIn this second part of a three-part series (check out the first part), I have outlined the equipment you need to make your homemade soap. While it seems like a bit of an investment up front, you will soon recoup the costs from the soap you make for your family, gifts or for sale. As with many homesteaders, you will find many of these items already in your kitchen.

Making your own soap at home is one of the best ways you can work toward living a more frugal life. It is not only rewarding financially, once you are all set up for homemade soap making, you will also find that it is a fun and very enjoyable hobby. You can make soap at home to use for yourself and your family, you can make soap to sell at local farmers' markets, craft shows, or on one of the several online craft retailers, or you can make soap to give away as unique, desirable gifts.

one ash soap

No matter what you are planning as the end use for your soap, the first step is to gather all of the necessary equipment. There are several items that you will need for soap making, and you will want to use some of them for only soap making. Here we will go through the list of needed equipment, talk about the purpose of each item in soap making, and offer options, where available, for each of the equipment items. You may have some of these items in your kitchen already, but they are all easy to find at either local or online shopping establishments.

The Scale

Possibly the most important tool that you will need for your homemade soap making is the scale. This should be digital, and should read ounces, preferably to the 1/10th ounce. The scale will be used to ensure that the chemical balance of your soap is accurate. You will use it to measure everything including your lye, liquids, oils, and additives. You can get a digital scale here.

The Lye Container

When measuring the lye, you will need to have either a clear plastic measuring cup, or bowl, that is used only for the lye, and is clearly marked "lye only." Since lye is a toxic substance in the dry form that you will be measuring, it is imperative that this container is used for nothing else. A large measuring cup that will hold at least 12 ounces, depending on the size of the batches you will be making, or a clear plastic bowl, or container, can be found at most any local store. If you are working toward frugality, a check at your local dollar store would be a great place to start looking for this piece of equipment.

The Mixing Vessel

Mixing your lye and oils together to create your soap requires a stainless steel pot to avoid the chemical reaction that could happen with other metals. One of the best things to use is a stock pot, generally of about an 8-quart size, depending on the size of the batch you are making. Using a stock pot allows you to work down inside the pot to help avoid splashing of the caustic lye substance, prior to saponification. Stainless steel stock pots can be expensive to purchase, but they can be found at a reasonable price at your local mass merchandiser or low price retailer. You can also find them here.

Safety

Make sure that you have a pair of safety goggles that cover all around your eyes in case of accidental splashes. The solution is very dangerous prior to saponification and contact with the eyes must be avoided. Safety goggles can be found readily, and inexpensively, at most dollar stores, home improvement stores, or mass merchandisers.

Spoon and Ladle

Mixing, measuring and pouring, can require either a stainless steel spoon, or a stainless steel ladle. Again, you want these items to be stainless steel to avoid any chemical reaction with the metal. Both of these items are easily found at local dollar or mass merchandise stores.

Stick Blender

This one item, along with the digital scale, is perhaps the most important piece of equipment for making homemade soap. While the mixture of liquids, lye, and oils, can be stirred by hand, the end product will be smoother, harder, and more professional if a stick blender is used. When mixing the ingredients together the stick blender is used to ensure complete integration of all of the parts to result in a timely trace, and ultimately proper saponification, and beautiful bars, of soap. Stick blenders range in price from fairly inexpensive to unnecessarily pricey. For the purpose of soap making, an inexpensive stick blender, which can be found here, is sufficient.

Molds

What you use for a mold for your soap can vary greatly. Everything from dish washing tubs, to plastic storage boxes, to silicone muffin cups, to candy molds can be used. You can also purchase specifically designed soap molds either online or at your local craft store. This is completely up to you, but the recommendation is that you find something that is squared off on the corners rather than rounded to avoid wasting and trimming of your bars. It is also recommended that you find a mold that can either be taken apart to expose the free standing soap, or a mold that is flexible enough to "pop" the soap out upside down. Metal containers should be avoided for this step, with soft plastic, or silicone, being preferable. I have recently had the opportunity to try out some wonderful farm animal molds (my favorite is the sheep mold) from Milky Way Molds. The detail in these molds is wonderful, and I have had fantastic results using their products!  If you have never tried detailed molds before I recommend you visit Milky Way Molds and look at their expansive selection. (A huge thank you to Milky Way Molds for providing me products to include in this post.)

honey bee soap 

Miscellaneous Tools

The only other things you may need for your homemade soap making project will include paper towels, stainless steel measuring spoons for measuring scents and other additives, and a few small measuring cups or bowls to hold ingredients prior to adding them to the soap mixture. These items may already be in your kitchen, or can be found at any dollar or mass merchandise store.

While it may seem like a long list of items that you need to make soap, remember that these are one time purchases that will allow you to make a life time of unique and creative soap. As with any craft or hobby, the tools you use will determine the quality of the end product. Don't hesitate to set yourself up for success by having the proper soap making equipment.

Part 3 of this series will be our recipe for Simple Soap, "Homemade Lye Soap."

For Part 1 of this series, "The Benefits of Soap Making," click here.

The Benefits of Soap Making

Lee AnnWhile making your own soap at home has become increasingly popular for those living frugally, as well as the homesteader, it is a bit intimidating to some folks. This article, the first in a three-part series about the benefits and equipment needed for soap making, will explain some of the details and help you understand the process.

In this day and age, many consumers have become aware of the added chemicals, increased costs and commercial processes used to manufacture personal hygiene items, including the soap we use to bathe ourselves and our families. The big producers are adding things considered toxic, and that can encourage diseases, cancers and other previously less common problems, including added fragrances and dyes that can cause allergies and skin afflictions. Because of increased knowledge of these unnecessary additives, there is a popular movement, particularly among the growing population of homesteaders, to make soap at home.

soap making benefits 

There are many ways of doing this, and a simple Internet search will provide hundreds of recipes and methods. The majority of the recipes include the use of a mixture of oils, such as olive and coconut, and the addition of an agent to aid in the chemistry of soap making, such as lye. The recipes also generally include fragrances in the form of essential oils, and various other natural additives such as rosemary, oatmeal, lavender or cornmeal.

Making your own soap at home is one of the easiest steps you can take toward frugal living and creating a more natural and healthy environment for your family. In this article we will discuss the benefits of making your own soap in three ways. First, we will talk about the undesirable ingredients found in commercially produced soap. Second, we will discuss the preferable ingredients you can use to make your own soap at home. And third, we will look into the frugality and personal satisfaction of being able to create your own products, such as soap, at home.

The Undesirable Ingredients

One of the most common reasons for making your own soap at home is the health benefits that come from homemade soap. Store-bought products often contain things like alkali, which is the most common irritant found in store-bought soap. This petroleum-based detergent will not only dry out your skin, it will also give you that tight feeling that comes from stripping your skin of its natural oils. This is what we, as consumers in a commercial world, have come to regard as "clean." Other undesirable chemical additives in commercial soap include DEA, isopropyl alcohol, BHT and triclosan. None of these are recognized, or properly utilized, by the human body and should not be included in our daily regimen.

Triclosan is one of the most concerning of these chemicals. It is commonly found in anti-bacterial soap and is a culprit in preventing our bodies from creating our own strong immune system to fight off bacteria and infections. Although it has been used in products for more than 30 years, recent studies show that the overuse of triclosan has been proven to alter hormone regulation.

The most common ingredient in commercially produced soap is sodium tallowate, which is, simply put, tallow or beef fat.

Given this list of undesirable, and sometimes unknown, ingredients used to make commercial soap, it is only natural that we would want to explore more desirable, natural ingredients for making our own soap.

The Desirable Ingredients

Making your own soap allows you to avoid all of those undesirable ingredients. While there is still a chemical process that must be followed to create a hard, usable bar of soap, there are many recipes available using more natural, body friendly ingredients.

The basic chemistry of soap making is that there is a reaction between water or liquid, oils and lye. Hearing the word "lye" is sometimes intimidating to those wanting to make a natural product. Many of us believe lye is harsh and is just another chemical. In fact, lye is naturally found and created by using the ash from a fire and draining it through a water process. Lye, in the case of soap making, is simply the reactant to produce the cleaning and consistency needed to make a viable bar of soap. And in fact, once the soap making has gone through the saponification stage (the needed chemical reaction), there is no actual lye left in the soap.

The choices of oils used in soap range from natural lard to organic coconut or olive oils, with each adding a different level of moisturizing and skin-soothing properties. Perhaps the most popular at this time is organic coconut oil. The oil is not only easily absorbed by the skin, it is extremely moisturizing. In addition, coconut oil in the organic form has anti-bacterial properties, therefore offering a natural substitute for the undesirable triclosan.

Making your own soap at home gives you the opportunity to incorporate the many benefits of essential oils to scent your soap and provide the individual properties associated with each oil. For example, the relaxing effects of lavender oil, the invigoration found in lemon grass, or the holiday inspiration of smelling a bar of peppermint scented soap. The use of essential oils lets you be creative and develop your own personal scent for your homemade soap.

The Frugal Satisfaction

While there are many bargains to be found, as well as sales, coupons and other promotions on commercially produced soap, there is a definite cost-saving factor when making your own soap. The initial investment in ingredients may seem like a lot, but most containers of the needed ingredients will supply multiple recipes of soap making. Each batch you make will supply your family with a multitude of bars of natural, wonderfully scented, lather filled soap to use for bathing and washing. The utensils you purchase will last for years to come, and the initial cost will recuperate itself very quickly as you discover the benefits of using your own soap.

Not only will you save the increasingly difficult-to-come-by dollar, you will gain an incredible amount of personal satisfaction from making your own soap. The first time you experience the liquids and lye working through saponification, and then pouring the soap into molds, you will feel like it is a major accomplishment. You and your family will revel in the marvelous creation of your homemade soap, as you secretly feel the pride of success and well-being that making your own soap provides.

There is always something to be proud of when you make your own products at home. This is no different with soap making. As mentioned, you are able to create a more natural product for you and your family, you will save money doing so, and you will feel a sense of personal satisfaction and well-being from the success of making your own soap.

Check out Part 2, "The Equipment Needed for Soap Making."

Turn to Part 3, "Homemade Lye Soap."

Incubating Eggs

Lee AnnThere is nothing quite as exciting as the cracking of an egg when a newborn chick is coming into the world. I always enjoy setting up my incubators and waiting for those little "cheeps."

I have been incubating chicken eggs for many years but I still can't get over the excitement in the household when that first egg cracks and the little newborn chick appears on its wobbly little legs. That first little chick looks so lonely and lost but more eggs are quick to crack and more chicks are quick to follow.

incubating eggs

Here at One Ash we don't have a fancy incubator. We use the styrofoam types that are easily found at farm supply stores. I am very careful with storing and cleaning them and have had the same two for about 12 years. I have an automatic egg rotator in one of them and manually rotate the eggs twice a day in the other one. Here are some tips that have helped me have successful hatches over the years:

  • Set up and plug in your incubators for at least a day prior to adding the eggs.

  • Keep an incubator thermometer in a place you can see it without lifting the lid.

  • Make sure the temperature inside your incubator is 99 degrees prior to adding your eggs.

  • Add water to the valleys in the incubator to keep the humidity high. This makes it easier for the chicks to crack through the egg.

  • Don't open the incubator if you don't have to - this helps keep the temperature even.

  • Check the thermometer at least a couple of times a day and adjust the dial only slightly if needed until the temperature is back to 99 degrees.

  • If manually rotating the eggs, mark them with an "x" on one side and an "o" on the other. Roll them gently twice a day with the "x" up in the morning and the "o" up at night.

  • Stop rotating the eggs three days prior to the hatching date (chicken eggs require 21 days of incubation).

  • When the chicks start to hatch, leave them in the incubator for up to 24 hours, or until they are dry.

  • Only open the incubator to remove chicks once a day. This helps maintain the proper temperature and humidity.

  • Remove the cracked eggs once the chicks emerge to keep the incubator clean.

chicks

When it's time for the chicks to move to the brooder they will need a heat lamp. We use a large plastic tub with a red heat light hung over a pole. I line the bottom of the tub with newspaper and use plastic jar lids for food and water. In about a week the chicks will be strong enough to eat from a regular chick feeder and waterer. Once they start growing their wings, these little newborns will move to the chicken coop or the chicken tractor until they are ready to venture out on their own!







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